tv Tavis Smiley PBS August 4, 2010 3:00pm-3:30pm PST
tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. first of tonight is a conversation with tony hsieh of zappos.com. he just sold a company for $24 million and he just negotiated a deal for another company reportedly worth over $1 billion. also, molly shannon is here talking about her voice for a new television series called "neighbors from hell." >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes.
>> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: tony hsieh is the ceo of zappos.com, which began relatively small and has burgeoned into one of the most successful dot coms.
it is now run by the amazon company. good to have you on this program. >> thank you for having me. tavis: let's jump right in. delivering happen is, that means what? >> i think 50 years ago, people felt they had to choose between maximizing process and making their customers or employees happy. i think right now, when his hyper connected whether through twitter or blogging, information trouble so fast we -- so quickly. i think we can have these things drive growth and profit. tavis: i have not been a scientific survey about this, but i have seen many. i am not sure that most american consumers believe that his or her care about the customer, much less what happens to them
-- why is that? why is it that most american customers do not believe that the company cares about them? >> i think that is because most businesses do not. most are focused on short-term profits. we are basically trying to build this up about the best customer service and experience. our whole thing is, let's take the money that we would have paid on advertising and instead, invest in the customer experience. for instance, free shipping, cheap overnight shipping, giving customers off the phone. we have gone from those sales in 1999 to over a billion dollars in gross merchandise sales every year. this is because of word of mouth about the customer service. tavis: so you can have good customer service and make money at the same time. >> yes, and we have the list of
100 best companies to work for, which we were super excited to make the last two years in a row. the title of the book is about making employees happy and customers happy, and then ultimately driving business with the results. tavis: seems to me if you are going to deliver happen is, you have to start with people. or at least, you have to create people who are happy with what they do. it is not about making kids happy. if you go deliver have been as, you have to first be happy. how do you find happy people? >> it is about trying to find people that believe in the long term vision of the company. there have been studies that show that companies need to have a higher purpose than just being number one in the market. by hiding -- by having a higher purpose, we actually end up making more profit in the long run because employees really are a lot more engaged and customers
see the higher purpose in the customer -- in the company. tavis: relate biblical verse that goes, where there is no vision, but the people perish. how you get people to buy into your vision? >> we want to make customers happy to customer service and it goes beyond that. we have another site called inside.com, where we are helping other companies create strong cultures to make their employees happy. those are the people that we tend to hire. last year we had over 25,000 people apply to work at the zappos and we hired only 1% of them. tavis: you talk about the hiring process in the book. you have a process -- i will let you explain it, but during your training program you can get up to $2,000 if you quit during the training program.
i have never heard of a job that pays you to quit. >> everyone that is hired in our office in las vegas, it does not matter what the vision, they go through the exact same training. it is a four-week program. they're actually taking calls from customers. at the end of the first week, it started ... at 100 -- it actually started out at $100 a few years ago now we say, we will spend -- will pay you for all of the the time spent training, plus a bonus if you leave the company right now. we do that because in vegas, there are plenty of other call centers endicott decent jobs. we do not want people there for the paycheck. we want theq)e because of the long-term vision and that the core culture matches their values. >> i will not -- tavis: i will not try that with my guys. the camera might be dead right
now. [laughter] something about the call centers, i do not have people working off a script. i can always tell when i get a call, a cold call or when i call into a call center and i think i'm calling downtown and i call tie 1 somewhere. i can always tell if someone is talking -- and i called taiwan somewhere. i can always tell someone is talking of a script. >> there is so much talk about consumers being bombarded with of thousands of messages every day. for us, we think of the telephone as one of the best training devices out there. rather than do it as an expense and berber we are trying to minimize or maximize the efficiency and looking at how long phone calls are, we do not measure it that way. our luck -- are long list of all is six minutes, actually.
we want to develop a personal connection with each customer. it is not about trying to maximize the sale. it is about building that lifelong relationship. if somebody calls and they're looking for a pair of shoes and we happen to be out of stock in their size, everyone is trained to look on at least three other websites. if they find them at the other website, then they direct them to their website. obviously, we lose that sale, but we are building to be that brand of service. tavis: there is a wonderful story that you tell, the pizza story. it is a great story. tell the pizza story. >> this is in santa monica california two years ago. i was at a sales conference for scatters -- skechers which, as one of our brands. after a long day when bar
hopping and we went back to the hotel later and we tried to order a hot pizza from the hotel and they were not serving food that late. and in our integrated way we said, called zappos. they're all about service. the other person was not amused. but she took us up on our offer and she called a zappos. she tried to order a hot pizza. and we -- and the representative said, we sell shoes, clothing. and she said, yeah, but i'm really hungry. and we were laughing. and then the rep got off of the phone and delivered a -- order a
sapida. -- ordered us pizza. we do not sell pipa, by the way. i cannot believe you had me tell that story. but if you get the coulter and understand the long -- the culture and the long term vision of a company, that is what is about. tavis: you do not want people calling zappos trying to order pizza slightly in the braided late at night. -- e. inebriated late at night. but it had to make you feel good that your company delivered while your client was on the phone. >> and it still does make me feel good. tavis: [laughter] you mentioned earlier that you have a program that you used earlier about educating
companies and and lightning them about this goal of making this work. if you tell of your competitors, everybody else your secrets -- >> co. coulter is one of those things that cannot be copied. we actually -- company culture is one of those things that cannot be copied. we actually invite people to go to our website and sign up right there and it will give you a zappos schabel and it tore. -- shovel and a tour. but in most cases it is not about copying our culture, because that is not what it is about. we have had those come through the zappos insight program, one that was refrigeration apparent
-- repairs are in the field. -- refrigeration repairs out in the field. they went through the program and now they are much happier and their customers are much happier and their profits are up. tavis: we have a picture on the screen a moment ago of you in the cubicle area, where you work. you're the guy that runs this operation, but tell me about your physical office. >> it is not just me. all the employees have a cubicle and we believe in an open door policy. the best way to have an open- door policy is to not have a door in the first place. you can definitely over. to others phone calls. it helps to make you feel like your part of the action -- you can definitely over here each other's phone calls. it helps make it like you are part of the action. tavis: tell me about your
personal back story. how did you come to be at the epicenter of all of this? >> back in 1996 during the first internet do, i started the company with a college roommate called on linkexchange and research but a hundred people -- ended up with 100 people or so and sold it to microsoft in 1998. i remember when it was just five or 10 of us and we're working a round-the-clock, sleeping under our desktops, no idea what date was. but we did not note any better than to pay attention -- we did not know any better about paying attention to the company's culture. and of course, it went downhill. we got our friends to work with us, but eventually we went through our friends and then we have to hire people we did not know. by the time we got to 100 people, i dreaded getting out of
bed in the morning to go to the office. it is kind of weird with a company that i co-founded. there are so many people that are different persons in the office verses at home or on the weekends. people leave as little part of themselves, or in some cases a big part of themselves at home. we want to create an enormous where you can be yourself up the office. we found up when that happened, that is when creativity happens. that actually improve the productivity of the company. tavis: your zappos story has been talked about just about everywhere. it is hard to read a major publication that has not covered the story. thankfully, there is a book that you can read called "delivering happen this -- happiness" written by tony hsieh. up next, actress molly shannon.
stay with us. tavis: i am pleased to welcome olli shannon back to this program. the former snl star is patting her talents to a new series "neighbors from hell" appearing on tbs. here is a scene from "neighbors from hell." >> guess who scored tickets to the execution for our anniversary tomorrow night? me, it will be just like our first date. remember when you held my hand for the first time? why was the most romantic night of my life. >> yeah, yeah, that was fun. >> i thought you would be more excited. tavis: getting tortured by his own music. it was a line. how was working on this animated
series? >> it is so fun. for me, i have little kids, so i like that there is no hair, no makeup. you just show up and it is at 100% fun. tavis: this is the first time you have done an animation? >> i did a movie called "igor." and i did an american version of miyazaki's film "my neighbors, the yamadas." tavis: what do you like best about animation? >> you can do and whole episode in an hour. -- a whole episode in an hour. i can drop my kids are fed school, go do that, and you are done. it feels like you are
accomplishing that and then you are done. the challenge, i guess, is that i am very physical. i use my hands a lot when i am talking, so it feels strange when it is just your voice. that is the hard part. tavis: how you know when you are hitting the mark? in other words, delivering what you want to deliver. if you do not have any visual to play off of. it is just you and this microphone. you have to visualize what your doing, but there is not a visual. >> exactly. tavis: and you're not playing off anybody. >> no, you are just by yourself. i guess, it feels somewhat kind of musical. if i am not getting it right, i will have them give me reading. tell me how you want it to sound. some actors are offended by deaf. i am not. i'm just like, give it to me. -- some actors are offended by
that. i am not. i'm just like, give it to me. tavis: the story line of "neighbors from hell" is from -- is what? >> it is about a family from hell that has come to earth to stop an oil drill. we just got that timely. tavis: [laughter] yeah. >> we discussed ourselves as a texan people and we find out that the hellish people are actually the texan neighbors. tavis: how timely is this? >> i know, we started shooting the series before all that happened and it is crazy that is being released at this time. tavis: of course, the simpsons have been around for a long time. what is your sense of why and how over the past few years animation has become a real turn on for adults? years ago, you think animation
and you think cartoons for kids. the animation business is growing for adults. i saw those numbers for "toy story 3" and they were crazy. what is it in your opinion that seems to work for adults? >> they can do all these crazy things that you would not be able to do in my action. -- live action. tavis: how old are your kids? >> my son is 5 and my daughter is six and a half. tavis: are not ready for this yet. >> no. tavis: [laughter] this is a dolt animation. >> i could show them -- this is a dolt animation doltas -- adult
animation. i saw the betty white episode. she is like the new rock star. what do you make of her at 88? >> it was amazing during the show with her and just feeling the love of the live audience. i did that show for six years and never was there a feeling like that in theire. people were so excited and wanted to laugh so badly. i think she has been an icon and been around so long and the fact as she is that age and doing what she loves and her comic timing is just impeccable. and on top of that, she is just the most down-to-earth person. she reminds me -- i am from the midwest and she reminds me of one of my graduating sisters. like, oh, honey, i love you. she has got her hot dog and she
is just easygoing spirit -- easygoing. she really set the tone for all the women. as a lot to handle, that show, even for a young person because it is like a fast-moving train and they're constantly writing it. and you are putting weight on and it is high pressure. -- putting wigs on and it is high pressure. she is from an old school time when she is used to memorizing everything. it was all new to her, you know, q cards and everything. are was so impressed with her. and she went to the -- i was so impressed with her. and she went to the party afterward and never went gave her a standing ovation. and she was up partying until sunrise, drinking and having fun. and i said, i hope you can get a good night's sleep tonight. she said, have to get on a plane to go back to l.a. i have to work on monday.
she just does not stop. tavis: you just mentioned a moment ago that her comedic timing is so good. again, you are the expert here. does that get better over time? i am trying to figure out if she's so good at her comedic timing because she has done it so long. of course, at 88, she should be missing a step now in her timing. >> i think that is a good question. i think she just always had it and never lost it. she is just a pro, so it has gotten better. she is like a thoroughbred. i think she was always that way and just always impeccable. it was funny, too, though, because on saturday of life, they will say, -- saturday night live, they will say, that joke is not working. and it was a, maybe she does not want to be right. and i said, she knows when her jokes are coming.
it was such a pleasure to perform with her. she was a master. tavis: i have done public radio for a number of years. i always get a kick out of the in pr stuff that you do. -- npr stuff that you do. what makes it so right for that to be. ? >> -- to be parodied? >> i guess it is because they're very serious. and they're fun to perform because they are so opposite of me. tavis: [laughter] >> there is something very relaxing about performing it, too, because it is very cerebral. tavis: on the betty white knight, you guys were a little risque, which made it even funnier. the whole thing was funny.
>> thanks. people loved it. we were both nervous, though, because we knew that people will point to watch the show and your heart just pounds because it is live television and you just try to not flood your line. and people say, it must be so hard not to laugh. and i say, i do not laugh at all. you just get so nervous. tavis: you you miss snl? >> i loved it for all those years, but i'm at a different time in my life and i love my kids and things are just a different. but i loved it then. you go back, and you feel like no time has passed. but the whole college atmosphere of staying up tuesday night writing until the sun rise and that kind of crazy schedule, i do not miss that. i feel like i outgrew that. new kind of feel like you graduated cannot you bring on
the young, hungry, expect want to kill themselves. tavis: you do not have neighbors from hell, do you? >> and no, no. tavis: if you do, you are not going to say it on television, just in case they are watching. [laughter] >> no, i really don't. tavis: that is our show for tonight. thanks for tuning in. >> for more information on today's is laurence fishburne on his role as thurgood marshall. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is james and he needs extra help
with his reading. >> you helped us all, live better. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve financial literacy and the economic >> ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> we are pbs. >> we are pbs.
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[wind howling] what a wonderfully windy day outside. and you know what the best thing to do on a windy day is? stay in bed all day and dream of chasing rabbits? [laughs] no, fly a kite, of course. oh, yeah. that was gonna be my next guess. flying kites is the best, holding the string and watching it fly up high in the sky. we all love flying kites, all right. yes, but not as much as me. i love flying kites more than anyone i know. in fact, i must be the kite-flying queen of the clubhouse. that wind outside is superstrong. maybe the wind's even too strong for kite-flying. don't worry, b.max, it's never too strong for a champion kite-flyer like me.